ROME - American Patrick Cantlay silenced the taunts of thousands of European fans to earn his side an emotion-charged point in their desperate battle to stay in the Ryder Cup on Saturday.
The 31-year-old was mocked relentlessly by the boisterous galleries at the Marco Simone course throughout his fourballs match alongside Wyndham Clark after reports surfaced that he refused to wear a team cap because of a pay dispute.
Home fans waved their caps in the air and sang "Hats off for the bank account" but Cantlay had the last laugh with an ice-cool birdie on the 18th green to secure a stormy victory over Rory McIlroy and Matt Fitzpatrick.
Showing the fortitude that his team mates failed to muster in the opening two days, Cantlay kept a tight match alive at the 16th with a nerveless birdie, sank a 10-footer at the par-three 17th to level and sparked wild American celebrations with his putt at the last.
His team mates, caddies and vice captains celebrated his birdie putt by waving their caps at the European fans and emotions boiled over with McIlroy, who along with Fitzpatrick missed hole-saving putts, was involved in a row with Cantlay's caddie Joe LaCava, accusing him of being in his line.
Cantlay denied the reports that he was demanding payment for Ryder Cup appearances and that there was a rift in the American team room, insisting his lack of headgear was because he couldn't find a comfortable one.
He admitted, however, that the hostile atmosphere had fired him up.
"The crowd was on me all day, I just used it as fuel. Hopefully, we can build a lot off this small amount of momentum we've got going," the world number five said.
"I told Wyndham we're going to use it all day. I have never had so many standing ovations walking from tee to green!"
Europe need only four points from Sunday's 12 singles but Cantlay referenced the European comeback in 2012 at Medinah when they hit back from 10-6 down to snatch victory.
"We've seen what they did at Medina. We have a steeper hill to climb but we're going to give it our best shot," he said.
A Ryder Cup that for three sessions lacked the usual tension as Luke Donald's Europe built a huge lead now has added spice ahead of Sunday's conclusion with tempers frayed after Zach Johnson's team won the afternoon fourballs 3-1.
Videos posted on social media showed a furious McIlroy being bundled into a car as he continued the argument.
Captain Donald said he was aware of the incident.
"I saw it unfold when Patrick made that putt, Joe was waving his hat," he said. "Rory politely asked Joe to move aside. He was in his line of vision. He stood there and didn't move for a while and continued to wave the hat. Rory was upset about that.
"We love this event because of the passion, but we want to do it the right way. Rory felt like the line was crossed."
U.S. captain Johnson said he was aware of an incident but was told McIlroy and LaCava were "all good".
"You see passion and emotion in the Ryder Cup and I don't think it's anything more than that," he said. REUTERS